Protein is a hot topic online and in the Gym. It is a topic that is widely discussed and debated among bodybuilders, nutritionists, and doctors. There are those who say that you can't get enough protein, while there are others who claim that you actually can get too much protein.
A quick intro if you aren’t a nutrition pro:
- Protein is one of the three main macronutrients that makes up the food we eat. (The other two are fat and carbohydrate.)
- Protein itself is made up of amino acids.
- Amino acids are the building blocks for most stuff in our bodies. They’re like Legos that can be broken down and re-assembled in different ways.
- Unlike extra fat (which we can store very easily on our bums and bellies), we don’t store lots of extra amino acids. Protein is always getting used, recycled, and sometimes excreted.
- If we don’t get enough protein, our body will start to plunder it from parts that we need, such as our muscles.
- So we have to constantly replenish protein by eating it.
Can you really have too much of a protein supplement?
High-protein diets may help weight loss, but this type of weight loss may only be short-term.
Excess protein consumed is usually stored as fat, while the surplus of amino acids is excreted. This can lead to weight gain over time, especially if you consume too many calories while trying to increase your protein intake.
A 2016 study found that weight gain was significantly associated with diets where protein replaced carbohydrates, but not when it replaced fat.
Does too much protein damage kidneys?
While no major studies from trusted Source link high protein intake to kidney damage in healthy individuals, excess protein can cause damage in people with preexisting kidney disease.
This is because of the excess nitrogen found in the amino acids that make up proteins. Damaged kidneys have to work harder to get rid of the extra nitrogen and waste products of protein metabolism.
Separately a 2012 study looked at the effects of low-carbohydrate, high-protein versus low-fat diets on the kidneys.
The study found that in healthy obese adults, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein weight-loss diet over two years was not associated with noticeably harmful effects on renal filtration, albuminuria, or fluid and electrolyte balance compared with a low-fat diet.
This concern about high protein and kidneys began with a misunderstanding of why doctors tell people with poorly functioning kidneys (usually from pre-existing kidney disease) to a eat a low-protein diet.
But there’s a big difference between avoiding protein because your kidneys are already damaged and protein actively damaging healthy kidneys.
It’s the difference between jogging with a broken leg and jogging with a perfectly healthy leg.
Jogging with a broken leg is a bad idea. Doctors would probably tell you not to jog if your leg is broken. But does jogging cause legs to break? No.
That’s the same thing with protein and kidneys.
Eating more protein does increase how much your kidneys have to work (glomerular filtration rate and creatinine clearance), just like jogging increases how much your legs have to work.
But protein hasn’t been shown to cause kidney damage — again, just like jogging isn’t going to suddenly snap your leg like a twig.
High-protein diets do result in increased metabolic waste being excreted in the urine, though, so it’s particularly important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Verdict: There’s no evidence that high protein diets (2.2g/kg body weight) cause kidney damage in healthy adults.
Does too much protein damage the liver?
The liver, like the kidneys, is a major processing organ. Thus, it’s the same deal as with kidneys: People with liver damage (such as cirrhosis) are told to eat less protein.
Yes, if you have liver damage or disease you should eat less protein. But if your liver is healthy, then a high-protein diet will not cause liver damage.
Verdict: There’s no evidence that high-protein diets (2.2g/kg body weight) cause liver damage in healthy adults.
Does too much protein damage cause osteoporosis?
Eating more protein without also upping your fruit and vegetable intake will increase the amount of calcium you’ll lose in your pee.
That finding made some people think that eating more protein will cause osteoporosis because you’re losing bone calcium.
But there is no evidence that high protein causes osteoporosis.
If anything, not eating enough protein has been shown to cause bone loss. Bones aren’t just inert sticks of minerals — a significant proportion of bone is also protein, mostly collagen-type proteins.
Like muscle, bone is an active tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. And like muscle, bone needs those Lego building blocks.
Women aged 55 to 92 who eat more protein have higher bone density. So eating more protein improves bone density in people most at risk of having osteoporosis.
(Eating more protein plus adding resistance training: Double win for bone density.)
Verdict: High protein diets do not cause osteoporosis, and actually may prevent osteoporosis.
So, how much protein do you need?
How can you be sure that you are getting enough protein? As an athlete, you need .6 to .8 grams of protein for each pound(0.45KG) of body weight. Many bodybuilders, however, take in about one gram of protein for each pound(0.45KG) of body weight, and most do not have any problems with this. This is very common for strength trainers.
The protein that you take in can come directly from food, or from protein supplements, however, a combination of solid foods and liquid protein supplements is recommended. In the case of replacing food with protein supplements, you can also have too much of the protein supplement, regardless of how much or how little protein you are actually taking in.
You see, your body needs solids and liquids. It is true that liquid protein is easier for the body to absorb, which is why a liquid protein supplement is recommended immediately after working out. However, your body needs to go through the act of digesting food, and it works harder at digesting protein, which in turn burns more calories. Again, you need a combination of solid foods, and liquid protein supplements.
Again, bodybuilders do need more protein than average people, and even more than some other types of athletes. However, remember the 'all things in moderation' rule, and understand that taking in more protein supplement than you actually need to reach your goals will not actually get you anywhere near your goals. Instead, it will leave you overweight, and in poor health.